The rise of technology
Gruelling working hours date back to the industrial revolution and the factory worker. 16-hour days dominated this era, until social reformers campaigned for an 8-hour working day. The simple aim was to split the 24-hour day into a more balanced picture of work, rest and leisure. Henry Ford was one of the first to introduce this in 1926, boosting productivity and profitability. The reduction in working hours and focus on efficiency saw John Maynard Keynes predict that technology would mean that we would be working 15-hour weeks before the year 2000. Whilst the 40-hour work week remained widely in place, Keynes rightly predicted the profound cultural changes that technology would introduce.
Fast-forward to 2018 and people can securely access their work whenever and wherever. Working from home is actively promoted in certain companies who argue that working for eight hours a day is no guarantee of productivity. Requiring someone to sit at a desk for defined hours is no way to frame the day. This is a sharp contrast to the days of Ford and Keynes when workers needed to be physically present to do their job. With people now working with ease remotely, the idea of setting ‘fixed hours’ for employees to complete their work within is increasingly being challenged.
Whilst many cite trust as a factor in whether working from home is supported in their workplace, for many, technological advancements mean a disconcerting rise in the number of workers taking work home with them and constantly being connected to work. This suggests that quantifying working hours in 2018 has become even harder, with work demands perhaps even rivalling the 16-hour days seen in the industrial revolution – just without the physical presence of a worker in their workplace.
The 9 to 5 model does not consider when individuals work best: as either night owls or early risers. This can impact recruitment, retention and morale. Millennials value the idea of flexibility and this can dominate their decision in accepting a new job. Almost half of people work flexibly with job sharing or compressed hours’ arrangements, with only six per cent working a traditional 40-hour week according to a YouGov survey. 37 per cent of full time workers said that they wanted to start work at 8am and finish by 4pm.